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New York: Medical Marijuana Growers Gear Up For Opening Day

Jacob Redmond

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Growing a plant that’s still illegal to cultivate under most circumstances requires special growing practices. But companies in New York say they expect to meet a Jan. 1 deadline to get medical marijuana on the market.

The state granted five licenses for growing legal marijuana for medicinal purposes in July, and qualifying patients must have a special prescription to get it. Forty-three companies vied for the five available licenses; one of the stipulations was being ready to dispense by Jan. 1.

Chuck Schmitt, director of horticulture for Vireo Health of New York, which manufactures in Fulton County and will dispense in Broome, Albany, Westchester and Queens counties, said the company is on target for the Jan. 1 launch date.

“I’ve been surprised how eager the plants are to grow,” he said. “They’re native to most of the world, so they can survive in a variety of environments.”

Four other companies selected include Bloomfield Industries Inc., which manufactures in Queens County and will dispense in Nassau, New York, Onondaga and Erie counties; Columbia Care, which manufactures in Monroe County and will dispense in New York, Suffolk, Clinton and Monroe counties; Etain, LLC, which manufactures in Warren County and will dispense in Albany, Ulster, Westchester and Onondaga counties; and PharmaCann LLC, which manufactures in Orange County and will dispense in Erie, Onondaga, Albany and Bronx counties.

For Bloomfield Industries, the Jan. 1 deadline meant acquiring a 230,000-square-foot manufacturing facility for the Staten Island-based company for growing, manufacturing, packaging and warehousing its pharmaceutical-grade cannabis.

Cannibis reaches maturity in about four months time.

Growers work entirely indoors and without the use of pesticides, fungicides or any other chemicals.

Richard Yost, founder of Bloomfield Industries Inc., also founded Ideal Organix and Ideal 420 Soil, both of which involve providing nutrient-rich soil. Providing the plants with fertile soil helps ensure medicinal-quality cannabis, he said.

Keeping it all under one roof helps growers control environmental conditions. New York is well-known for harsh weather, which makes growing anything in late autumn through early spring difficult. The cannabaceae family, to which cannabis belongs, represents a summer annual.

Schmitt earned three degrees in horticulture, including his master’s degree from Ohio State University. Before coming to Vireo Health, he worked as a resource educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension advising people who grew greenhouse crops.

He said that he experienced a “learning curve” in how to raise cannabis and that getting input from staff at Minnesota Medical Solutions, the parent company of Vireo Health of New York, helped.

“Cannabis plants have the same nutritional needs that most other plants have,” Schmitt said. “They need full-spectrum light. They can grow in a variety of media: hydroponic water, soil, coconut fiber or peat moss. It’s more like being able to manage the soil, water, nutrition and air.”

Schmitt uses integrated pest management, or IPM, instead of insecticides, which he considers important for his medicinal-grade plants. Using organic methods limits the type of fertilizer he can use, he said, and he believes that in an indoor environment he needs freedom to use more types of fertilizer.

Keeping the plants healthy also involves limiting access. Schmitt and his three co-workers wear scrubs and gloves when they handle the plants for cleanliness.

“Culturally, we look at what’s best for the plant,” he said.

Growing indoors also increases security for the companies’ products, even though these legal facilities produce and sell only medication containing cannabis extracts.

“Smokeable marijuana is different from medical marijuana,” said Peter Kerr, spokesman for Columbia Care.

“This is not the kind of thing people use recreationally.”

He said that in order for patients to be allowed to enter the facility they must have one of 11 medically diagnosed conditions, plus their doctor’s recommendation. The growing facilities bar any nonemployees’ entrance.

Etain, LLC and PharmaCann, LLC did not respond to requests for interviews.

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News Moderator: Jacob Redmond 420 MAGAZINE ®
Full Article: Medical Marijuana Growers Gear Up For Opening Day
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